Because of Korea's longitudinal and latitudinal brevity, it has been woefully deprived of one of the few remaining American institutions that could arguably be called worthwhile: the American truck stop. Korean truck stops - because there are about three of them - are subject to obsessive-compulsive upkeep and sanitation. Where there should be Skoal-encrusted toilet seats and glory-holed stall walls, there are friendly solid-gold cyborg bidets that are fluent in over six million forms of communication. Where there should be amphetamine-popping truckers with Old Testament names, there are shrewd, camelbacked old men who will simultaneously organize your wallet, give you a neckrub, and grill up a live squid. In short, the Korean truck stop is modern, safe, and open to Asian-looking people from all walks of life, not just those of us who are young and gutsy enough to put our trucker virginity on the line for a bag of vending machine Funions.
We stopped twice on the 53 kilometer drive to Gyeongju. En route, we passed a trailer truck hauling thirty rusted red cylinders stamped with the English words "ROBOT WIRE." The Bostonian and I posed a few anxious questions from the backseat, which prompted Sangmin to hit the gas and crank up the Korean hip-hop. The invasion has begun.
Gyeongju was typically Korean. Mountains, pagodas, nylon Buddha ponchos, and every ten feet a vending machine stocked to the brim with Pocari Sweat, a hyperaddictive opiate-based sports beverage. While in Gyeongju, as per whenever I leave the apartment, I absorbed a small cult of eight to ten year-old disciples who followed me around stroking my arm hair and saying "I love you."
We didn't stay long, but I did manage to take this pretty bad-ass picture of Hyunmin.
It is an unfortunate coincidence that I happened to catch him during one of the rare twelve-second intervals where he is not puffing on a cigarette, otherwise this would have been a near-perfect Marlboro Man shot.Korea - as evidenced by the photograph below - is a fantasyland of nauseating antiquity, harrowing technological capability, and chuckle-worthy juxtapositions of the two.
I do not recommend it to anyone.